Local Gardener Plants Seeds of Hope with Her Nonprofit

Article excerpt

Byline: Profile by The Register-Guard

Name: Maggie Matoba, 48, Eugene.

Claim to fame: Started Healing Harvest in May 2002. It's a local nonprofit organization dedicated to horticulture therapy - using plants and plant-related activities to help victims of domestic violence, abuse and trauma, at-risk youth, and those facing mental and physical challenges.

`Sense of purpose': Healing Harvest has gardens in five locations - at the River Kourt Apartments in north Eugene, where survivors of traumatic brain injuries in ShelterCare's Uhlhorn program live; Looking Glass Youth Services Evaluation Treatment Center; Womenspace; and Willamette Oaks and Sheldon Oaks retirement centers.

Residents of these places have an opportunity to get out and work in the gardens, "so they can get out of their apartments and get some mental stimulation and a have a sense of purpose," Matoba says.

A change of vision - and values: A travel agent in Eugene for almost 21 years, Matoba was laid off in November 2002 as the industry struggled after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. She already had found her new passion, though, and decided it was time to complete the jump to social service advocate. She became certified as a Master Gardener and enrolled in an intense horticulture therapy program at Portland's Good Samaritan Hospital.

"I haven't even drawn a salary yet," said Matoba, who relies on between 20 and 30 volunteers, "but I'm living my dream."

History in Little Tokyo: Matoba's father, Minoru Matoba, started the original Atomic Cafe in downtown Los Angeles' Little Tokyo in 1945. …